Analyse Martin Shields’ photograph of two young footballers. What are the denotations and connotations of this image? You can write your answer in descriptive prose or make a bullet list if you find this easier.
Compare your findings with those of other students via the OCA student forums.
Download from the OCA student site the tear sheet of the newspaper in which the Shields photograph was originally published.
Read the accompanying text and answer the following:
- Does the text relate to your initial deconstruction of the image? If so, how?
- Does the text change your perception of the image? If so, how?
Denotation – the photo shows us:
- Two young friends from rival football teams
- Walking through a rundown area
- Possibly on their way back from playing a match
- They are in the very front of the image’s depth, with the path ahead stretching out in front of them
Connotation – the photo tells us:
- That there are prospects for peace in a place divided by sectarian tension [my guess was Glasgow from the striped kit]
- That the journey to peace starts with this generation
- That the path ahead might be long and difficult
Other students managed to find more than I did in the image, both at a denotative and connotative level, e.g.:
- Denotative: overcast sky, stony ground, lack of other signs of life, ages of the boys, cleanliness of the kit (and so likelihood that they are in fact in the way to a match), possibility that it was posed
- Connotative: working class (football is a working class sport), gloomy outlook (sky), obstacles on the way ahead (uneven ground)
The text does not match my deconstruction of the image! I had – like most students – focused on the boys in the foreground instead of the housing in the background.
I had correctly identified Glasgow as the location, but projected an imaginary narrative about local rivalry.
The text does change my perception of the image, in as much as I prefer my version! – as in, it makes more sense to have those component parts in a photograph that matches my explanation than the real story.
The image is heavy with unintentional symbolism – a story about housing risks getting viewers confused as to whether there’s a sectarian angle.
Two learnings here:
- Watch out for unintentional symbolism as it can skew the narrative
- Images and text need each other to make full sense of a story